April 21, 2020

My Top 5 Favorite Photoshoot Locations in SF

San Francisco Family Photographer

So you want to do a photoshoot with your family in San Francisco, but you have no idea which location to use? There are tons of beautiful spots in the Bay Area for family photoshoots. I have a list a mile long, but here are some of my favorite locations to use!

1. Cavallo Point in Sausalito

Cavallo Point is my number one choice for family and maternity photoshoots. It has so many amazing backdrops, views of the Golden Gate Bridge, a lot of open space, and plenty of parking! As with all of my photoshoots, I typically do a loop with the family to all of my favorite spots around the property so we get to explore the scene and the kids don’t get bored!
There are so many spots to keep the kids entertained! A lot of the time when I am shooting at crowded locations, it can be stressful to keep an eye on the kids, but here, there is so much space for the kids to run around freely, it allows everyone to relax! Also, I prefer getting “bridge shots” on this side of the Bay and not on the San Francisco side. The angle of the sun always looks better in this direction (in my opinion!)

I also love that there are really cool buildings and backdrops to use around Cavallo Point! This gives a cool mixture of textures and styles in your final image gallery. I recommend this spot to any size family, but it works well especially for families with dogs, extended families, families who need to bring a stroller with them, and families with toddlers who want to run free!

2. Sutro Baths at Land’s End

The old ruins at the Sutro Baths in San Francisco are really cool for photoshoots! There are a lot of great spots to use down in the ruins, including this reflection pool with the ocean behind it. There are some downfalls to this location so it’s not the best for every family. There is a massive amount of stairs leading down to the ruins, so this can be hard for elderly people and young kids.
Because this location is next to the ocean, it has the tendency to get foggy and sometimes really windy. These are things to keep in mind when selecting your location! Parking can also be very hard here on a weekend, so I try to only use this location during weekdays.

Sutro Baths is a great location for maternity sessions, too! This spot has a lot of dangerous elements to it, like cliffs, a lot of steep stairs, and small walkways to get to the ocean ledges, so sometimes taking young children here can be difficult. That being said, I have a lot of families who choose this spot and we just take it extra slow and carefully!

3. The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco

The Palace of Fine Arts is a great spot for family photos! Between the amazing architecture and natural elements, there are plenty of backdrops to choose from. This spot gets pretty crowded on the weekends, so definitely leave extra time for parking in the area.
My favorite thing about the Palace of Fine Arts are the green doors! They are such a fun color splash for a backdrop and there are so many to choose from, so if it’s crowded it’s not a problem. The Palace is a great spot for kids of all ages, but you do have to keep an eye on the kiddos because sometimes bicyclists zip through.
If you want photos with a true San Francisco landmark, this is definitely a fun place to check out. This also works great for maternity sessions, extended family sessions, and families who need to bring strollers.

4. The Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park

What I love the most about the Botanical Gardens is the fact that it’s never very crowded! There is an entrance fee for anyone who lives outside of the San Francisco city limits (it’s free with your SF address on your ID), so I think that keeps out a lot of extra people wandering through. There are so many great little pockets of nature to use during the photoshoot!
There is a fun water fountain that the kids usually love to walk around! There is a ton of open space for everyone to run around, while still being safe and contained within the park. I also love that there are restrooms on both sides of the gardens, which we all know is important when you have impatient little ones!
The Botanical Gardens are great for families of all sizes and ages. They DO NOT allow dogs, so you have to leave your furry friends at home for this one. It’s also a nice spot to stay and have a picnic for the day!

5. The Hills of Petaluma

I know it’s not technically San Francisco, but this is still one of my favorite spots for family photos! Located just 35 miles north of the city, these hills offer stunning backdrops for family portraits. It does include a very steep climb to the top, so anyone with health conditions should probably reconsider using this location.
Because of the harsh sunlight, the Petaluma hills location ONLY looks good an hour or so before sunset. Keep this in mind when planning your session! If you have young children and it’s the summertime, the best time for the photoshoot would be around 7:30pm, which can be very late for a toddler. In the Fall, it’s great because the sun sets around 5pm, making the session much earlier and more accessible.
If you are wanting a very natural, whimsical, and organic feel to your family photos, this might be a great spot for you! This location is not good for families who need to bring a stroller. Dogs are allowed, but they must stay on leash according to the park rules.


Trust me when I say, the location doesn’t matter that much. If staying home sounds easier and more fun, then let’s do that! We can take a stroll around your neighborhood, play in your backyard, jump on your bed, and have the kids show me their favorite toys.
What matters the most is that you are excited for the photoshoot and not feeling stressed out. The other amazing thing about doing photos in your own home is the weather! It’s never raining inside! Your house does not have to be picture perfect either, I can walk through and find the best pockets of light and use those!
Staying at home can be less stressful on the kids, too! They have all of their snacks, they feel comfortable, and there is less pressure to “perform.” I recommend everyone have family photos inside their home at least once before the kids are all grown-up. It really is a fun memory to document!

I hope that was a helpful location guide for you! If you are ready to book your own family photos with me, drop me a line!

xo, Katie



Ready for your photoshoot? Let's do it!